A poor student who never went to university, only to painting school, William Butler Yeats professed a scorn for scholarship. Nonetheless, he became an active critic. Financial need motivated much of his journalism, but Yeats also served a higher calling. As a young man, he was split between two pursuits: the occult and Irish nationalism. Although he was too discrete to write about the former directly, it found an outlet in his taste for Irish folklore, which in turn suited his nationalism. Many of the articles collected in the volume early works are part of Yeats's efforts to set standards for a national literature, to defend it from""the Shamrock and the Pepperpot"" of cliche. His earliest reviews are breezy, full of""Oh!"" and""Ah!"" and opinions belonging more to a fan than to a critic. Suddenly eloquent when free to tell his own shaggy dog stories about ancient queens and Fairies--once for a journal titled Lucifer--Yeats blossoms as a critic in the 1890s, as his stake in politics sharpens his rhetorical sense. This is an essential volume for the scholar but might bore the enthusiast; most of the books Yeats reviewed were very similar, and he seems to have written his pieces carelessly. The editors' excellent, meaty notes, which often rival Yeats's articles in length, contain numerous corrections of Yeats's quotations. Yeats enjoyed the superiority inherent in being a critic, and the rashness of this youthful prose is in many ways more revealing than the poet's careful""Autobiographies,"" which he penned much later in life.